“Lord, take this cup from me....”
I prayed these words at a time when I was at my lowest. It's hard to describe what it was like when my marriage of 20 years fell apart. There were feelings of hurt, shame, rejection to name a few. It was a time of grieving but also a time of peace and comfort, for it was at this low point in my life that I truly surrendered and allowed God to take control. He rescued me out of my pit of despair, plain and simple. He wrapped his arms around me and gently wiped the tears from my eyes. Every morning He helped me put one foot in front of the other and I was able to carry on.
There is one poignant moment I'll never forget in those early days. My daughter's best friend was staying at our house and we found ourselves in a sunny corner of the living room having a nice chat. She asked me how I was doing. Not sure how to answer, but sensing her maturity, I honestly shared some feelings and thoughts. Her soft but sure response was incredible. She said, “Rhonda, God is going to bless you richly for trusting in Him and living your life for Him.” Her words really spoke to me and I knew I would be ok.
A promise from God I claimed over and over was Habakkuk 1:5 “...For I am going to do something in your days that you will not believe, even if you were told.” The true peace I felt during this traumatic period of my life could easily be seen as the fruition of this promise and the biggest miracle in my story.
But there's more.
“Hmmmm, I wonder what a house costs on Prince Edward Island?” I found myself asking this bizarre question after a family vacation to the East Coast. I began imagining spending summers on the island or retiring there. I had been divorced for a few years, thinking of my future, and pondering where God wanted me. He was putting some pretty fantastic ideas in my head and it was an exciting time for me. Instead of sadness and lonliness, God was giving me a spirit of joy and hope.
For fun I started looking up PEI properties and to my surprise, homes along the red cliffs and pristine shorelines of Canada's smallest province were very reasonable. Then one day my curious sister peeked over my shoulder and inquired about my internet search. I sheepishly admitted my dream, waiting for the inevitable chortle.
To my amazement she gasped and replied, “I've always dreamed of living there, too!”
God's hand was in all of this, and six months later, my sister and I signed the papers. We were the owners of a beautiful property in Sea View, Prince Edward Island!
But there's more...
The Night We Met
Prince Edward Island is a special province, with its patchwork quilt of rolling hills, quaint lighthouses, red dirt roads leading to breathtaking beaches. I could have picked any one of these idyllic settings for the most romantic meeting of my life. Yet God had a very different and unique location in mind.
It was a tranquil summer evening on July 28, 2016 and I was sitting at the back of Robert's Auction House in Kensington, PEI with some of my Sea View neighbours. The room was packed. The bidding by one and all was quite enthusiastic and, at times, downright intense. On that particular night my auction skills landed me a massive lobster pot, an antique Mennonite quilt, and some yard tools...and I had only spent $35! I thought I had landed some pretty good items. Boy, did this pale in comparison, though, to what (or should I say who) was to come.
At 10 pm, towards the later stages of the auction, a tall, handsome, red bearded gentleman strode into the building. As this man tells it, he didn't even know why he was at this random establishment. He and his son had landed in PEI a few days earlier for the summer to visit family.
On this evening he was alone looking for a coffee shop to read his book. Nothing was open. As he drove down the dark streets, there was a single bright light ahead. Something was telling him to go towards that light. He ignored the voice and kept driving. Yet the voice persisted so he turned around and drove back to the light. As he got out of his car, he could hear the distinct staccato tones of....an auctioneer??? "Hmmm, interesting," he thought, "I'll go inside."
When he entered the building, which smelled faintly of farmers and mothballs, the very first thing he set his eyes on was this 'pretty lady' at the back of the room, smiling and full of joy, and he thought to himself, “There's something about her. I'm supposed to talk to her.”
Yes, I had seen this man enter the auction house, but I really didn't pay much attention to him. Unbeknownst to me, however, he had planted himself at the end of my row of chairs, waiting for an opportunity to start a conversation. It presented itself moments later, for right after a box of broken hammerheads was successfully auctioned off, William Bryerton, a sturdy boat captain from San Francisco, gave a chuckle and piped up, “Wow, they'll auction off anything, won't they now?!”
The reply from the 'pretty lady' was, “Oh yes, you should have been here earlier. You missed the bidding on that bundle of mop handles!” We shared a laugh, and I gestured to him, “These seats are free, sit down if you'd like.”
In a blink of an eye he was in the chair right beside me, introducing himself. The two of us, along with my Sea View friends, had a great time chatting. We curiously asked how each other had ended up in PEI and where home was. I told him of my wonderful family and my life as a teacher in Manitoba, and William shared of his boat captain career on the San Francisco Bay, and of his 10 year old son who meant everything to him. He mentioned he was considering a life change, maybe he would start an almond roasting business of all things. “That sounds very interesting. You should go for it!” I coaxed.
As the place shut down, we lightheartedly agreed that the auction with all its quirks was a superb event and we would both be back the following Thursday.
But there's more...
Could It Be?
As I drove back to the PEI homestead that night, I felt the strangest emotions. There was no denying the butterflies in my stomach and the obvious sparks of interest and attraction. But was William a Christian? This was a non-negotiable for me. I knew some general details about him from our initial conversation and that he seemed to be a very kind, good person, but that was all. Well, I thought, let's just see if he even shows up next Thursday.
The days flew by and Auction Night was upon me. I shall tell you that I put a tad more effort into my appearance on this occasion than the previous week. I wanted to look nice after all! (It was kind of reassuring and special, though, knowing William was drawn to me that first night, with my hair up in a haphazard bun and donning an outfit from the 'carefree farmgirl' collection.)
A few minutes before I left the house I lamented to my sister, “Ohhhhhhh, I sort of like this guy already. Wouldn't it be just amazing if he was a Christian? But of course he WON'T be, I mean, what are the chances?” Cue my slumping shoulders and droopy lips.
My sister, in the truest foreshadowing there could ever be, confidently replied, “Rhonda, of course God could make that happen. If it's meant to be, God has the power to put a Christian man in your path at an auction house.”
Hmmmm, I thought to myself, could it be? With that idea swirling in my brain, off I went to see if 'Captain, My Captain' would make an appearance at Robert's Auction House. Once inside, I picked the very same seat as the last Thursday, and for the better part of the evening, I nervously scoped the entrance to see if William would show up. The minutes, then hours, ticked by and no sign of him. Sigh. I said a prayer and was at total peace. If it wasn't meant to be it was truly ok.
But then moments later who should rush through the doorway than the Captain himself! I gave a gulp and smiled. He didn't see me! I could tell he was scanning the entire room looking for me. But wait, he didn't recognize me with my hair down and looking a bit 'nicer'. He fought his way through the crowd, came over to the end of my row, and stood beside my chair, looking directly over me. Then, with a hint of panic, he continued to visually scour the room. It was becoming clear that it would be up to me to break the ice this time around. Here goes nothing, I thought, and cleared my throat. “Ahem.....William, you made it!” I beamed up at him.
At the sound of my voice his gaze fell upon me. With great relief his eyes lit up, and he exuberantly greeted me. “BRENDA!!” Of course, I graciously informed him my name was actually Rhonda. We then proceeded to have a colossal laugh over that one, and still do to this day.
That second meeting at the auction house was another blur. We talked for two hours this time and, again, we really hit it off, so much so that we planned a coffee date for the following night. I liked William very much already, and decided that it would be nice to tell him a bit more of my life story in a quieter setting. Yes, I would tell him the amazing things God had done for me! I would tell him that I would pray for him and this would bolster him in his own journey! And then, I would send him on his way. After all, it seemed just too good to be true that William was a believer.
But there's more...
MY JAW DROPPED
Our coffee evening was magical. William picked me up at the house in Sea View where I introduced him to my mom, who just happened to be visiting from Manitoba. We spent some time with her and then drove 10 minutes along the north shore to Malpeque where we found O' Neil's, a gorgeous renovated old house that had been converted into a restaurant and art gallery.
As we climbed the enchanting porch steps the owner greeted us and said they were just about to close. Oh well. We chatted with him for a bit and then he said, “You know, we're still cleaning up in the kitchen. Why don't you two come in and you can have the place to yourselves.”
It seemed like God was smiling down on our evening. There we sat across from each other, totally at ease. It was in that cozy back room over a cup of coffee that we shared some more personal details of our lives, and it was in that moment where my jaw hit the ground. Hard.
William talked first. He told of heartbreaking life events, some eerily similar to mine. Then, amidst the sadness and the struggles he described, he began to plainly tell of how his Wednesday night men's group from church had helped him through some of his hardest moments. He talked of surrendering and finally letting God have full control in his life.
Whaaaaaat? My body went numb. I did a double take. William was a believer. The church he attended in California was central to his life. I would visit Petaluma Calvary Chapel with William two months later and discover the pastor preaching the gospel, people with Bibles and hearts open, their voices and hands raised, singing the same worship music I loved.
After that evening at O'Neil's, we both knew our paths had crossed for a reason. We saw one another every day for the next six weeks, going for sunset walks on the beach, holding hands at the fish shack or ice cream parlour, spending time with each other's families, attending church in Summerside, and pinching ourselves. We were falling head over heels in love! It was very tough boarding separate planes for opposite ends of the continent, but we prayed that if it was God's will for us to be together, he would provide the pathway and open the doors.
In October of that same year, William flew from California to visit me in Steinbach. We went for a walk in the rain one evening, and in a grove of impressive pine trees behind the Lutheran Church, William bent down on one knee, and held up a beautiful ring. “Rhonda, I want to spend my life with you. Will you marry me?”
As the rain droplets gently splashed their encouragement, I accepted his loving proposal and I felt myself asking, 'God is this really happening?”
His undeniable, resounding answer was, “YES, Rhonda. I love you and want to bless you. I've always wanted to bless you my dear child.” I knew it was true. My heart was bursting with overwhelming gratitude.
December 28th was a glittery, snowy, and perfect day, the day we married each other, with friends and family celebrating this miracle with us. A week later we moved to California to be close to William's son and begin another awesome adventure which we are enjoying today, our little business “Bryerton's Roasted Almonds.”
Are YOU Ready for More?
God's plan is not the same for everyone. His plan for me was to marry again, but that doesn't mean I couldn't have led an amazing, fulfilling life being single. One thing I know for sure, God is waiting and excited to bless all those who surrender to him. When we accept his offer of unconditional love, the blessings WILL FLOW. Sometimes we have to open our eyes and be thankful for what is just sitting there. Then when we least expect it, God will bless us with more than we can ever imagine!
About the Author:
Rhonda was born and raised in Steinbach and she loves her growing family. Her son and daughter live in Manitoba and are married to wonderful spouses. Rhonda is also a proud Nana to three amazing grandsons. Rhonda was blessed to teach for 26 years, first at Woodlawn School and then at Steinbach Christian School. Today Rhonda calls California home, where you can find her and William selling their almonds.